California native plants shine in local Japanese-style gardens


Courtesy of Tanya Kucak
Masses of blue ceanothus flowers denote springtime in California. Though planting a variety of ceanothus cultivars can extend the bloom time, the peak bloom time will still be spring. The seasonality of these shrubs makes them special.

When you envision an authentic Japanese landscape design, do you think of (a) moss, bamboo and Japanese maples, or (b) local California native plants? If the garden is located in California, the correct answer can be (b).

“In Japanese gardens, 98 to 100 percent of the plants are native,” said Leslie Buck, an aesthetic pruner who wrote about her mid-career gardening apprenticeship in Japan in the book “Cutting Back” (Timber Press, 2017). Japanese gardeners, who are “masters of native landscaping,” she said, advise: “Don’t copy our nature; use your own.”

Apricots in paradise: Tracing the roots of a fruitful garden legacy


Above Left Town Crier file photo; Above Right and right Photos courtesy of Robin Chapman
In addition to filling the region with pink blossoms in spring, above left, apricot trees and their bounty allow growers to make jam, above right. The old apricot tree, right, still graces the garden of a Los Altos home on Covington Road. Apricot trees can live 50 years, or even longer if planted in the hills.

It was really paradise.

MV works to welcome backyard rental units


Courtesy of Tony Chan
Local developer Tony Chan builds small backyard units on existing lots that meet the 700 square-foot cap in Mountain View.

To relieve the statewide housing shortage, numerous California cities have made it easier for residents to build accessory dwelling units – also known as “granny units” – in their backyards.

Mountain View is one of those cities, according to Mayor Lenny Siegel, who spoke at a free seminar titled “Backyard Rental Units as a Means to Address the Housing Shortage” Jan. 12.

Party house: Los Altos couple's design maximizes fun, storage


Photos by Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Winnie and George Biocini remade their Los Altos rancher with fun in mind, adding chandeliers to welcome guests to entertainment areas, epic space for personal attire and a secret passageway.

When the late Winnie and George Biocini moved into their “retirement” home in Los Altos, they did anything but retire.

After living for 35 years in Menlo Park, they planned to move into a condominium at the Menlo Commons but changed their minds when George quipped, “We can’t live here – there are old ladies in the pool.”

Lilies present danger for housecats


Kristi Perez/Special to the Town Crier
Koko is allowed to play with a fake orchid. When she gets her paws on actual houseplants, she likes to bat them around and play in the potting soil.

The last time I grew African violets, a housemate’s cat visited my plant regularly and, when I wasn’t looking, ate every single flower. On the bright side, African violets are not poisonous to cats, and this particular cat was not interested in digging up my plants.

If you want both cats and houseplants to thrive, be sure to do some research before bringing a plant into your cat’s territory, because some cats like to bite plants, or even eat leaves or petals.

Glow together: Mtn. View family's holiday light display grows into tradition


Photos by Megan V. Winslow
The Horton family’s Mountain View Avenue house lights up this month with fanciful figures ranging from “Star Wars” characters to “Sesame Street” favorites and a rotund pink pig.

The Horton family’s holiday decorating scheme grew in bits and pieces over the years, as a few snowmen snowballed into a menagerie of holiday beasts upon their lawn.

The Mountain View residents moved into their Mountain View Avenue home in 2007 and have expanded their lighting schemes annually, this year adding a walkway arch spangled with 3,000 lights.


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